Frequently Asked Questions
You have questions. We have answers. The following FAQs can help answer initial questions you may have about diabetes in dogs. For specific questions, more information or diagnosis, talk to your veterinarian.
Diabetes in dogs does not appear to be caused by weight gain or obesity but maintaining your dog at a healthy weight is important. Genetics may play a role in diabetes in dogs, but the primary cause is largely unknown.
Diabetic dogs receiving proper care and management have the same expected lifespan as a non-diabetic dog of the same sex and age.
Unlike human diabetics, all diabetic dogs require insulin treatment to manage their blood glucose. Diabetic dogs develop fewer long-term complications than their human counterparts so the treatment goals in diabetic dogs are different from those in diabetic humans.
All diabetic dogs require insulin treatment to manage their blood glucose. Some dogs are unable to produce any insulin (similar to type 1 diabetes in humans) due to destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas by their immune system. Like humans, female dogs can develop diabetes during pregnancy but also during their normal estrus cycle or “heat”. Dogs can also have diabetes secondary to another disease, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone), or another condition, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
There are many reasons for changes in urination in dogs, such as stress and medical problems including kidney or bladder infections. Your veterinarian is best placed to diagnose what is wrong and prescribe the best treatment for your dog. Schedule a visit to your veterinarian as soon as possible if your dog is dripping urine, straining or experiencing pain on urination or has experienced a change in its urination pattern.
Increases in blood glucose can occur in dogs that are stressed or frightened as well as in dogs with diabetes. Stress hyperglycemia appears to be more common in cats than in dogs. Your veterinarian will investigate what is causing high blood glucose in your dog and whether this is due to diabetes.
Fructosamine is a glycated protein that is occasionally used to help diagnose diabetes in dogs. Fructosamine is measured more commonly in cats. Unlike blood glucose measurements, glycated proteins are not affected by stress or the timing of the insulin injections and meals. Your veterinarian may also recommend periodic fructosamine measurement to help assess how your diabetic dog is responding to treatment.
“I was going out to pee a lot. I didn’t think it was a big deal – going to see my veterinarian was the best decision ever!”
Managing Canine Diabetes
It is important that your dog has access at all times to clean drinking water. Your dog will be thirsty when blood glucose is high. You should not try to restrict your dog’s water intake. Your dog’s thirst should improve as you treat your dog’s diabetes.
If you are worried about your dog or your dog is unwell and not eating, consult your veterinarian before giving any insulin injections.
If you think you might have missed some or all of your dog’s insulin dose, it is best to wait until the next scheduled insulin dose and then continue as normal. A brief period of high blood glucose (hyperglycemia) due to too low an insulin dose is not as dangerous as the possibility of causing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) by giving too much insulin.
Diabetes can make it harder for the immune system to fight infections, so your diabetic dog may be at a higher risk of disease than dogs that are not diabetic. Moreover, the presence of disease or infection may make diabetes more difficult to manage and you may see changes in your dog if an infection is present.
For infections that can be prevented by vaccination, immunization provides the best protection for your dog. The annual vaccination also gives your veterinarian an opportunity to give your dog a complete checkup including a physical examination, any tests that may be indicated and make sure that your dog has the vaccinations and any treatment or preventives needed.
Reducing infection and disease risks is an important part of keeping your diabetic dog happy and healthy.
Your veterinarian will only propose that your dog has surgery if needed and when safe to do so. Your veterinarian will advise you on how to manage your diabetic dog before and after anesthesia and surgery. Your dog will likely receive intravenous fluid therapy during the anesthesia and surgery. This ensures that your dog continues to receive the water that is needed even when your dog is unable to drink. Your dog is not at any additional risk from anesthesia and surgery than a dog of the same age that does not have diabetes.
If you think you have given too much insulin, contact your veterinarian and explain the situation. Administer the treatment recommended by your veterinarian, which may include feeding a little of your dog’s food. Monitor your dog carefully for signs of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). These signs are often very subtle or absent and can include anxiety, depression and behavioral changes. If your dog is very quiet or sleepy or trembling, shivering, has twitching muscles or seems weak, try to encourage your dog to eat a small meal, or rub a small amount of a glucose source (such as corn syrup or glucose powder, tablets or gel) onto your dog’s gums.
Many dogs start to show signs of improvement as soon as insulin treatment is started. However, it can take a few weeks or even several months of insulin treatment to significantly improve or eliminate your dog’s signs. It is very important to work closely with your veterinarian as your daily routine and insulin treatment are tailored to suit your dog’s needs. A consistent daily routine including monitoring your dog’s progress are key to managing your dog’s diabetes.